Electric vehicle sharing company tests scooters in Albemarle

Published 10:19 am Friday, September 2, 2022

With the influx of new residents to Albemarle’s downtown area, getting around without a car often means walking.

One relatively-new business looks to put wheels under those feet.

Peel Scooters, a Kannapolis-based electric micro-mobility vehicle sharing company, recently donated to the city a batch of 20 yellow scooters for residents to use.

According to the company’s website, “two small-town entrepreneurs created the company with a vision to provide more transportation opportunities for local community members in an affordable and eco-friendly manner.”

The scooters are free to the city, but residents will have to pay $1 to unlock the scooter and 30 cents per minute for its use.

Riders will scan the scooter’s QR code on their phone, taking them to the App Store or Google Play. After a short tutorial and an input of their credit card information, they are off and running.

After their use, riders can return the scooters to a specific location or leave them for the company to pick up. Each scooter comes installed with a GPS-monitoring system, to continuously track the device’s whereabouts.

Alex Zimmermann, co-founder with Antonio Knight, decided to market the scooters in Albemarle after learning about the city’s new night market on Instagram.

After contacting market organizer Theodore Williams, the scooters were brought to the downtown area last weekend and “they got fantastic usage,” Zimmermann said.

City officials were not initially aware of the scooters but Albemarle City Manager Michael Ferris had a conversation with the founders. The topic, including safety concerns, will be discussed in more detail at Tuesday night’s council meeting. Zimmermann said both founders plan to attend.

“We have a growing downtown and we expect a variety of businesses to be interested in pursuing opportunities there,” Ferris said. “City staff and City Council will be taking a look at the concept Peel Scooters has to offer.”

The city has a prohibition in its ordinances regarding operating scooters and similar transportation on sidewalks in the Central Business District.

After each ride, the company gets a report detailing how long the scooter was utilized and where it was taken, among other data points. Peel can track the number of average riders at any given time (13 scooters were used Wednesday night, for example) and the number of monthly active users.

“We’ve been very pleased with the usage we’ve got so far,” Zimmermann said, noting he has talked with businesses owners who have enjoyed seeing the scooters in the area.

Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation (ADDC) Director Joy Almond said people had been “blowing up” her phone about the scooters. While she knows little about the devices, “it’s been kind of fun following the social media comments that have been keeping people guessing.”

Williams, the night market organizer, has also been impressed.

“I feel like it’s really modernizing downtown,” he said.

Depending on the success of the pilot program in Albemarle, Peel can adjust the availability of scooters going forward. Zimmermann said he is interested in establishing a formal partnership with the city.

The battery-powered devices weigh 30 pounds and have a lifespan of about three years. Zimmermann estimates he has come to Albemarle four times over the past week to replace the batteries of heavily-used scooters.

Albemarle marks the second city the company has targeted behind High Point. Instead of targeting larger cities which have electronic scooters, Zimmermann said he is confident Peel’s scooters can be a success anywhere.

Smaller communities “can benefit just as much if not more from the micro-mobility market,” Zimmermann said.

Micro-mobility devices include a range of vehicles such as bicycles, e-bikes, electric scooters and electric skateboards.

These types of vehicles are becoming popular across the country, Zimmermann said, especially in urban areas.

“Cities are realizing how valuable these devices are for the community and then it’s just blowing up and expanding from there,” Zimmermann said. “So yeah, it’s huge.”

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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